A friend and I were discussing, well, a lot of things. Among them was the notion of the inseparability of an unconventional lifestyle and “insanity,” the idea that in order to be creative, one must live in a disruptive, often destructive, unorthodox manner. I think this is a popular belief, where we can get so wrapped up in the process of avoiding our insecurities and anxieties (the things that make us afraid) that we obsessively choose to identify with the resulting destructive behaviors of that so-called “insanity.” This is probably true even for non-creative types. I would imagine addicts justify their addiction this way. I know I have certainly justified purely compulsive, destructive behavior this way. “I know I shouldn’t do this, but hey, I’m crazy! I’ll give in because this is the same thing that makes me great!”
It’s not true. At least I don’t think it is. If I can quote myself without you thinking I’m literally the grossest person ever, I told my friend something I learned relatively recently, which is, “Healthy living trumps all.”
I have spent so much time in my own personal dungeon of misanthropic angst and I used to call it home. It felt comfortable. It felt right. I knew where shit was down there. I was somebody down there, the king of the lair, tilted black crown and all. But I was miserable there. It was comforting but it wasn’t satisfying. It was exciting (at times) but it wasn’t beautiful. It was dark and I played ping-pong with the shadows and demons from my past and present. I danced in the fire of my own emotional self-destruction. I celebrated my spiritual demise. I truly hated myself.
Ever since I moved to New York, I’ve been sort of forced to reexamine myself. Moving to a new city is always tough, but New York strips you bare. It smashes your ego and crushes your spirit and all you’re left with is yourself. The towering buildings and speeding subway cars are totally apathetic toward your success or failure. “You think you have something NEW to add that hasn’t already been thought of? Look around, asshole. There are people everywhere. You’re nothing! I’m a huge building!” The past 7 months have been an intense process of reflection and, later, of growth.
Last month, a friend of mine died. He was 24. I went to the wake and funeral. I still haven’t totally processed it. However, I learned a lot. (It makes me feel guilty to admit that.) The biggest take away from it was just how fleeting life is. I know it’s cliche or whatever but sometimes there is a difference between knowing something and understanding it. (Knowing is in the brain goo; understanding is in the heart/soul goo.) The experience of seeing death happen when it wasn’t supposed to transferred the idea of “life is fleeting” from the knowing to the understanding. I got it. It clicked.
Moving, being in such close proximity to death, as well as various other events and experience, acted in concert to prompt a very specific, very intense inspection of myself, inside and out. I realized that I was clinging so desperately to pain and negativity because it was all I knew. The Hostility Hut was comfortable because I had been there before. I was a regular. Everyone knew my name and my order there. “Hey, it’s Drew! Have a seat, pal. The usual? A large plate of ‘Everyone is a Fucking Moron Sent Here to Ruin My Life’ with a side of ‘Love is a Hoax Invented to Mock Me’ salad? You got it!” It was a defense. I kept the world at bay because I had been so hurt by it in the past. I didn’t trust anything or anyone. I was alone and I was desperate to make it someone else’s fault. "Love is something that I’m OWED by these fucking imbeciles! Why won’t they love me?! THEY OWE ME MY OWN SALVATION!!!"
This is no way to live. Life ends. Who the fuck am I? What the fuck is my pain worth? My anger? My resentment? You lie dead at the end and all of those things will vanish as well. All of my built up rage will die with me and lose its impotent, amorphous contour in a puff of meaningless smoke. They are all worthless. Dead weight on my boat. "Throw them overboard!”
That simple (yet very difficult) switch has been a transformative revelation: I am alive, which means I have possibilities. Death is the end of all such possibilities; life is the infiniteness of hope.
The process of growing, learning, engaging, being present in the moment, being more creative, using your natural resources (body, brain, heart, thoughts) to become your future self is fucking ridiculous. It’s the best. I can literally do whatever I want! I’m alive! Holy shit!!!! Yeah. It’s that simple. Alan Ball was right. I have fingers and arms that can play piano or write this stupid blog entry or hug another person! How insane. I can strip myself of my own ego and become a selfless piece of the human race, creating unconditional love and acceptance abound! I can use my thoughts and my voice to share ideas with others and my (admittedly terrible) ears to listen (the best I can) to other people’s ideas and concerns. I can eat mushrooms with my friends on a beach and experience a new perspective in which I say things like, “Clouds always have one foot out the door. They can’t commit like trees can.” I can be a part of this absurd thing we call life. Or existence. Or the universe.
What follows is an intense level of gratitude for existing at all and a burning desire to fill your life with beauty. This is the drive for healthy living. It supersedes everything else. This idea that we must spend our time (not so) secretly hating ourselves so that we may produce more creatively is flawed. If your creativity hinges upon your life being miserable, it is not worth it. I believe more of us have that choice than we like to think. I believe you can have both. I believe you can be even more creative by becoming more in touch with yourself in a positive way than you can by merely obsessing about and swimming in the pools of your own brooding darkness. It takes a much more creative and outward approach to grow than it does to obsess and rearrange your internal sordidness.
In my case, specifically, the next step of this was interesting: I realized that while a lot of my hostility was borne out of my own insecurity, the anger wasn’t necessarily wrong. I’ve started to reconcile that anger with more proper guidance. Once you step outside yourself, you can see that while hostility might not be the answer, there is a lot to be angry about. I think my emotional immaturity often conflated the two and it came out as one whiny burst of entitled bitching. But, time has afforded me the ability to uncross those wires:
What, Drew? What is there to be angry about? I thought we were so over that??
Here is what makes me angry:
ANYTHING THAT STANDS IN THE WAY OF HEALTHY LIVING.
Fuck the Constitution. Burn it. Everyone has ONE RIGHT and ONE RIGHT only: the right to live healthily.
It’s the most important. Society is currently designed to get the most out of its citizens. WRONG. It must be (re)designed to give the most to its citizens. (This includes all life, not just human life. It is a global society.) It needs to serve our deep yearning to live healthy lives, not our artificial desire to be satisfied consumers. This is on every level: physical, emotional, spiritual, and possibly others we haven’t even discovered yet. People should not have to eat processed foods, mass produced mana that merely sustains them so they can survive until tomorrow where they’re awoken by their blaring alarm clock, only to hit the snooze button and pray for nuclear holocaust which never comes so they beer-bong a gallon of coffee to “get them through the morning” at a job where they essentially sell their lives typing numbers into computers so they can afford the terrible foods which keep them alive so they can keep coming into the job they hate year after year, only to eventually get cancer from the nonsense they’ve been shoving into their digestive tracts. People should not be forced to pay taxes to a corrupt central institution that spies on, harasses, and otherwise prohibits its citizens while ruthlessly murdering citizens of foreign countries with impunity. People should not be socially coerced into adopting, learning, mastering, and obsessing over competitive technologies that eventually take over their lives to the point where we become a society of Internet-addicted, smartphone mongers, “freely” walking head-down into traffic. People should not be brainwashed consumers or “voters,” impotently throwing what few dollars they have toward propagating a system that acts against their own interests, clinging to the desperate belief that this is somehow going to yield positive social growth. People should not be so devoid of meaning, so emotionally empty, so desperate to escape their own lives that they spend all their “free” time flailing about these technologies, frantically searching for the next Netflix documentary or NBC sitcom or sporting event or political pundit program or Asian creampie video to watch.
THESE ARE ALL IN THE WAY OF HEALTHY LIVING.
Do not mistake my perspective on “American life” for cynicism. It is only because I am comparing our social norms to the hypothetical norms of a healthy society. A society where people are engaged not detached, self-aware not in denial, readily selfless toward their community not selfishly hoarding capital out of fear of poverty/collapse/other people. So when I see an obstacle to living well, an instrument of opposition to living well, a pillar of propaganda turning people against their own interests for the sake of production, I get angry. Angry because I know the succulent treasure of which we are being deprived. I have seen it! In bursts. It is possible. I have seen the synergetic possibilities of human selflessness. I believe we all have. To oppose those possibilities, or to stand in their way, is tantamount to spiritual genocide. It’s a valid anger. The anger is so much stronger too because I know now that it’s not emerging from the depths of my own wretched self-loathing; no, it comes from an authentic internal volcano that erupts recurring bellows: “THIS IS WRONG, GOD DAMN IT.” I’m fighting on the side of healthy living. That is the one and only “right side of history.”
Cultures and individuals are not that different. Our society is full of hostility, resentment, bitterness, jealousy, insecurity, anxiety, and fear.
As a society, we must reexamine ourselves, break ourselves down and be willing to confront our demons and our collective insecurities. We can't let fear control us and allow our power to be diverted into the hands of a sociopathic ethos. We must completely gut ourselves in the effort of being remade. It will be painful. We will learn things about ourselves we wish we did not know. But ultimately, these will be beneficial. We can then face our fundamental issues with confidence rather than cower from them in fear. Are we creating a safe place for NEW HUMANS (children)? Do we infuse them with a healthy life or deprive them of their potential at every turn? Do we show love to ourselves? What is the cost of our material gains? Does a healthy society pillage its land base and its xeno-species neighbors or does it strike a balance of love and reciprocity? We live in a hostile society with cement, glass, and commerce running through its veins. What is the source of this hostility? What are we so afraid of?
Remember, the collective fear of our civilization will die with us. What good was the Roman arrogance in the end? What of the ostentatiousness of the Greeks? Or the Chinese? Or the decadence of the Europeans?
We must rid ourselves of the ghosts that haunt us, the aggregate worry that we aren't good enough, collectively and individually. We are. We have the power of humanity inside of us, here and now, free to use any time we want. We can endure the requisite pain and remodeling. All it costs is being true to ourselves and each other. The rewards are heaven on earth: all of us, together, engaged in healthy living. What could possibly be more important?